That’s all it took for Troy to put together a third quarter scoring blitz that ended its four-year drought against Piqua and even the state’s longest running rivalry at 63 wins apiece. Piqua makes the playoffs as an 8 seed despite seeing its six-game winning streak end.
Piqua — It had all the hype of a heavyweight fight.
After an exciting, back and forth first half in the 132rd meeting of the Piqua Indians and the Troy Trojans, many in the near-capacity crowd of nearly 10,000 at Alexander Stadium probably thought the game might come down to whoever had the ball last.
Piqua, battling for a Division three playoff spot, saw the Trojans jump out to 10-0 and 16-7 leads. A 14 yard touchdown pass from Austin Davis to Hayden Schrubb pulled the Indians to within two at the break, 16-14.
But instead of second-half drama, the Trojans decided the outcome in the third quarter. And it took all of four and a half minutes.
Troy scored 21 points coming out of the locker-room to break open the game, and shut down the Piqua offense in the second half en-route to a 37-14 triumph that snapped a four-year losing streak in the series and gave the Trojans a 9-win regular season.
“It feels amazing,” said Troy senior quarterback Hayden Kotwica, who threw for 187 yards and ran for 83 more while accounting for four touchdowns. “We knew coming in that this would be a dog fight, but we knew we would come out in the second half and just keep grinding, because that’s the type of team we are. Everyone works together as one and we just keep pushing.”
“I can’t really put into words what this means,” said an exuberant Troy coach Matt Burgbacher. “ The kids earned this. Our kids deserve this. They worked their tails off and bought in to what we wanted to do. They wanted to be the team to turn things around and they did. It’s one thing to say it. It’s another to do it and they did it. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Piqua saw it’s 6-game winning streak snapped and finished at 7-3, but still grabbed the 8th seed in the Region 12, Division three playoffs according to Joeeitel.com. The official pairings will be announced Sunday.
The game could not have started worse for the Indians. Junior Jacob Bushnall bobbled the opening kickoff, then was hit hard as he crossed the 15 yard line. The ball popped free and Troy recovered at the Piqua 17. Bushnall was on the field for several minutes before he was taken off on a stretcher.
“I don’t know what kind of effect that had on the kids,” said Piqua head coach Bill Nees. “I haven’t talked to them about it. But any time you give up field position like that and one of your kids gets hurt, that’s a concern.”
On Troy’s first play from scrimmage, starting guard Kameron Block went down with a left leg injury. He was helped off the field and spent the rest of the night on crutches.
The Indians held the Trojans to a 22-yard field goal by Jacob Anderson on that first drive, but it would be one of the few times the Indians defense got a stop all night. Taking advantage of another short field, Troy drove 39 yards in 7 plays, with Kotwica scoring from the 1. 10-0 Trojans.
“Our kids were jacked up,” said Burgbacher with a smile. “They wanted this game. They knew that this was their last chance, and our seniors were determined that they weren’t going to graduate without beating Piqua. They wanted to win and they did.”
Piqua finally got on the board on the first play of the second quarter. Ben Schmiesing scored from 14 yards out to culminate a 9 play, 80-yard drive to cut the lead to three. But as they did all night, the Trojans had an answer. And it was a quick one.
On the second play from scrimmage, Kotwica found sophomore Kobe Feltner alone behind the Piqua secondary for a 61 yard gain to the Piqua two. Kotwica scored on the next play, but the extra point snap was botched, leaving the score 16-7 Troy.
After the Davis to Schrubb touchdown pass culminated a 12 play, 76 yard drive by the Indians, the teams went to the locker-rooms with Troy leading 16-14. It appeared to be anyone’s ballgame at that point. The Indians, with Allen Schrubb and Ben Schmiesing, ran the ball effectively in the first half, while the Trojans found success through the air.
“If you had been in our locker-room at halftime, you would have thought we were behind by three touchdowns,” Burgbacher said. “The kids were down, coaches were upset, but hey, you have to settle down. That’s why we like getting the ball to start the second half. We have an offense, because we two platoon, that can score quick. We made just a couple of minor adjustment on defense, and we shut them out in the second half.”
It was a different game in the second half.
“Coach Burgbacher told us at halftime to come out and do what we do,” Kotwica said with a grin. “He prepares us every week. He says if we stick together, play together as one and love each other, good things will happen. We are playing with a lot of confidence right now.”
Taking the second half kickoff from their own 35, the Trojans needed just 5 plays to score again. Kotwica found Zion Taylor in the deep right corner of the end zone from 15 yards out and Troy led 23-14.
Piqua went three and out, and on the next Troy snapped, Kotwica raced 46 yards for a score, putting the Trojans up 16. When the Indians fumbled two plays later at their own 24, the Trojans needed three plays to score, with Josh Browder racing in from the fifteen for the final score of the night.
“We got behind in field position in the third quarter, and then they hit us with some big plays,” said Nees. “We had gone for most of the year keeping things in front of us and keeping things contained, but we weren’t able to get that done tonight.”
Piqua ran for 149 yards unofficially in the first half, but just 41 yards after halftime. Schmiesing led the way with 128 yards on 1`8 carries, while Allen Schrubb added 78 yards on 15 carries.
Troy out-gained Piqua by just three yards, 354-351, but field position favored the Trojans all night. Troy started drives from the Piqua 17, Piqua 39, their own 40, their own 34, the 35, the Piqua 46, the Piqua 24 and midfield. The Indians did not start a drive past their own 30 all night.
“You have to take advantage of good field position, and we did that tonight,” Burgbacher said. “When they turn the ball over, you have to make them pay. Our defense did a phenomenal job of creating turnovers, and our offense did a great job of getting points off those chances. We had nine turnovers the last two weeks, and tonight we had one. Our kids know you can’t do that against a good team.”
The Trojans will host a playoff game for the first time in several years next week. Kotwica said he and his mates are already looking forward to that.
“It’s going to be an exciting week. Our fans have been so supportive of us, and it’s going to be great to be at home and have their support next week.”
Any Troy win over Piqua is special, but Kotwica said this one especially for this year’s seniors.
“We started talking in the summer about “Beat Piqua, Beat Piqua”. We hadn’t beaten them at all in high school, so this is very, very special.”
Burgbacher had the last word after improving to 11-9 in two years at Troy.
“This is big for our program. It’s big for our kids, but most of all, its big for this community. Our community loves football, and they have been starving for a winning team. Our kids wanted to do this for themselves, they wanted to do it for their teammates, but more importantly, they wanted to do it for their community. They wanted to serve their community and bring that title back to Troy where it belongs.”